Calling 911? Landlines get you help faster

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- It could be the difference between life and death. The time is takes for emergency responders to find you or a loved one in an emergency. KEPR looked into how much longer it takes the dispatch center to match your location when calling with a cell phone compared to a land line.

Erica Ortiz is a mother of three. She used to keep a lock on her cell phone. But then she realized - how would her kids call 911 if something happened to her. So she changed that.

"My phone is not locked, so just in case something happens to me they know to unlock me phone and just to call 911," said Ortiz.

She also teachers her kids the importance of being observant and always knowing where they are. It's a crucial question 911 dispatchers ask when you call for an emergency.

"If they don't know your location it's gonna be that much longer for them to get to you and who knows what can happen within that time frame," she said.

"Seconds count when you have an emergency, especially if it's a life threatening emergency," said SECOMM Manager, Jim Barber.

When you call 911 from a land line or your home phone, the operator can see exactly where you are. The wired phone is connected to the 911 system. But it's a different story when calling from a cell phone.

"When you're dealing with wireless devices, you're kind of floating through the air. You have a gps on your new phones, hoever, it's only as accurate as the cell phone vendor you're using," said Barber.

So that means emergency responders are left with a general area to try and come to your rescue. The location could show up anywhere from 100 to 300 yards away. That's the length of three football fields.

"We need the caller to know where they're at. We can get a general location. We can send help to you in a general area, however, if the caller doesn't know exactly where they're at, we're gonna have to search for you," he said.

And Jim Barber says searching could take up to 20 minutes in a worst case scenario. So knowing where you are at all times could help be the difference between life and death.

The solution to the problem has to come from the cell phone providers.

On a separate note, many of the schools in our area have signs throughout the buildings that let kids know where they are in case they need to call 911.